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Pre-suffrage impartiality, democratic experience and clientelism: How sequencing matters

Kyriacou, Andreas (2023): Pre-suffrage impartiality, democratic experience and clientelism: How sequencing matters.

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It has been asserted that clientelism today is weaker in countries that were endowed with impartial public administrations prior to the extension of suffrage because the presence of bureaucratic checks undermines clientelism as a viable political strategy. We empirically examine this claim based on a cross-section of up to 136 countries. While we do not find evidence of a direct link between pre-suffrage impartiality and contemporary clientelism we do find evidence of an indirect effect working through post-suffrage democratic experience. Pre-suffrage impartiality in the guise of impartial public administrations or, more generally, the rule of law, enhances both democratic stability and democratic quality. Experience with democracy in turn helps rein in clientelism by increasing the credibility of programmatic promises thus reducing the need for vote-maximizing politicians to seek political support through clientelistic exchange.

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